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Web Installation Depicts Afghan Violence Through Convergent Programming

Matthieu Cherubini combines three cyberspaces to make a dramatic statement on the war in Afghanistan.

Last year, whistleblower organization Wikileaks received the attention of the United States government and the world media with their anticipated release of the Afghan War Diary, a collection of highly classified internal U.S. Military documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan from January 2004 to December 2009. The release of about 75,000 documents presented the public with a new view of the war, especially regarding questionable reporting on official death tolls. The lethal attacks these documents contain are now the subject of Matthieu Cherubini’s new online installation, Afghan War Diary, which builds a unique bridge between three cyberspaces: the aforementioned Wikileaks military logs, player data from popular online action game Counter-Strike, and the globe-mapping services of Google Earth.


Cherubini’s work presents itself to the viewer as a triptych with three identical Google Earth images of Afghanistan. As players within one of the five Counter-Strike servers kill each other, the virtual kill, or frag, as the gaming community calls it, will trigger a search through the Wikileaks war logs, and provide Cherubini’s space with the geographic data and nature of death in that event. As this information is relayed, one of the Google Earth images will shift to display the actual location of that death, and a ticker at the bottom displays the date and time of the actual killing alongside the virtual frag.

Much like documentary filmmakers use editing to display valued images to their audience, Cherubini uses the power of programming to juxtapose spaces on the internet, offering a detached, recurrent, and singular vision of a calamitous international conflict. But what statement on the prevalence of violence in modern society is this project trying to propose? Cherubini’s selection of Counter-Strike could hardly be arbitrary, especially given the solid popularity of the game since its release in 2000, and frequent claims that Counter-Strike is a key influence on the psychology of school shooters. Perhaps Matthieu Cherubini hopes the viewer will pause and ponder such questions, for as long as frags continue in the world of Counter-Strike, the site will continue to cycle through the tragic consequences of a seemingly futile endeavor.

_Afghan War Diary will be appearing in an exhibition at the upcoming [Re-New Digital Arts Festival]( ) in Copenhagen, Denmark from May 16-19th_.